Chess piece

A chess piece, or chessman, is any of the six different types of movable objects used on a chessboard to play the game of chess.

Number of pieces

Chess pieces







Each player begins with a total of sixteen pieces. The pieces that belong to each player are distinguished by color. The lighter colored pieces are referred to as "white," and the player that owns them, "White". The darker colored pieces are referred to as "black", and the player that owns them, "Black". The word "piece" has three meanings, depending on the context. The context should make the intended meaning clear (Burgess 2009:523) (Hooper & Whyld 1992:307).

  1. It may mean any of the physical pieces of the set, including the pawns. When used this way, "piece" is synonymous with "chessman" (Hooper & Whyld 1992:307) or simply "man" (Hooper & Whyld 1987:200).
  2. In play, the term is usually used to exclude pawns, referring only to a queen, rook, bishop, knight, or king. In this context, the pieces can be broken down into three groups: major pieces (queen and rook), minor pieces (bishop and knight), and the king (Brace 1977:220).
  3. In phrases such as "winning a piece", "losing a piece" or "sacrificing a piece", it refers only to a bishop or knight. The queen, rook, and pawn are specified by name in these cases, for example, "winning a queen", "losing a rook", or "sacrificing a pawn" (Just & Burg 2003:5).

In the first context, each of the two players begins with the following sixteen pieces in a standard game:

Moves of the pieces

Chess starting position. Squares are referenced using algebraic notation.

The rules of chess prescribe the types of move a player can make with each type of chess piece. Each piece type moves in a different way. During play, the players take turns moving one of their own chess pieces.

  • The rook moves any number of vacant squares forwards, backwards, left, or right in a straight line. It also takes part, along with the king, in a special move called castling.
  • The bishop moves any number of vacant squares diagonally in a straight line. Consequently, a bishop stays on squares of the same color throughout a game. The two bishops each player starts with move on squares of opposite colors.
  • The queen moves any number of vacant squares in any direction: forwards, backwards, left, right, or diagonally, in a straight line.
  • The king moves exactly one vacant square in any direction: forwards, backwards, left, right, or diagonally; however, it cannot move to a square that is under attack by an opponent, nor can a player make a move with another piece if it will leave the king in check. It also has a special move called castling, in which the king moves two squares towards one of its own rooks and in the same move, the rook jumps over the king to land on the square on the king's other side. Castling may only be performed if the king and rook involved have never previously been moved in the game, if the king is not in check, if the king would not travel through or into check, and if there are no pieces between the rook and the king.
  • The knight moves on an extended diagonal from one corner of any 2×3 rectangle of squares to the furthest opposite corner. Consequently, the knight alternates its square color each time it moves. Other than the castling move described above where the rook jumps over the king, the knight is the only piece permitted to routinely jump over any intervening piece(s) when moving.
  • The pawn moves forward exactly one square, or optionally, two squares when on its starting square, toward the opponent's side of the board. When there is an enemy piece one square diagonally ahead of a pawn, either left or right, then the pawn may capture that piece. A pawn can perform a special type of capture of an enemy pawn called en passant. If the pawn reaches a square on the back rank of the opponent, it promotes to the player's choice of a queen, rook, bishop, or knight (Just & Burg 2003:13–16).

Pieces other than pawns capture in the same way that they move. A capturing piece replaces the opponent piece on its square, except for an en passant capture. Captured pieces are immediately removed from the game. A square may hold only one piece at any given time. Except for castling and the knight's move, no piece may jump over another piece (Just & Burg 2003:13–16).

Chess sets

Table sets

The variety of designs available is broad, from small cosmetic changes to highly abstract representations, to themed designs such as those that emulate the drawings from the works of Lewis Carroll, or modern treatments such as Star Trek or The Simpsons. Themed designs are generally intended for display purposes rather than actual play (Hooper & Whyld 1992:76). Some works of art are designs of chess sets, such as the modernist chess set by chess enthusiast and dadaist Man Ray, that is on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.[1]

Chess pieces used for play are usually figurines that are taller than they are wide. For example, a set of pieces designed for a chessboard with 2.25 inches (57 mm) squares typically have a king around 3.75 inches (95 mm) tall. Chess sets are available in a variety of designs, with the most well-known Staunton design, named after Howard Staunton, a 19th-century English chess player, and designed by Nathaniel Cooke. The first Staunton style sets were made in 1849 by Jaques of London (also known as John Jaques of London and Jaques and Son of London) (Just & Burg 2003:225).

Wooden White chess pieces are normally made of a light wood, boxwood, or sometimes maple. Black wooden pieces are made of a dark wood such as rosewood, ebony, red sandalwood, African Padauk wood (African padauk which is similar to red sandalwood and is marketed as Bud Rosewood or Blood Red Rosewood) or walnut. Sometimes they are made of boxwood and stained or painted black, brown, or red. Plastic white pieces are made of white or off-white plastic, and plastic black pieces are made of black or red plastic. Sometimes other materials are used, such as bone, ivory, or a composite material (Just & Burg 2003:224,226).

For actual play, pieces of the Staunton chess set design are standard. The height of the king should be between 3.35 to 4.13 inches (85 to 105 mm). United States Chess Federation rules call for a king height between 3.375 to 4.5 inches (85.7 to 114.3 mm). A height of about 3.75 to 4 inches (95 to 102 mm) is preferred by most players. The diameter of the king should be 40–50% of its height. The size of the other pieces should be in proportion to the king. The pieces should be well balanced such that their center of gravity is closer to the board. This is done by adding weights such as iron studs or lead blocks at the bottom and felted. It makes the pieces bottom-heavy and keeps them from toppling easily (a well-weighted piece should come upright even if tilted 60 degrees off vertical axis). This helps in blitz games as the speed of movement doesn't offer enough time or precision in dropping the pieces onto the intended squares. The length of each side of the squares on the chessboard should be about 1.25–1.3 times the diameter of the base of the king, or 2 to 2.5 inches (51 to 64 mm). Squares of about 2.25 inches (57 mm) are normally well suited for pieces with the kings in the preferred size range. These criteria are from the United States Chess Federation's Official Rules of Chess, which is based on the Fédération Internationale des Échecs rules (Just & Burg 2003:224–27).

The grandmaster Larry Evans offered this advice on buying a set (Evans 1973:18):

Make sure the one you buy is easy on the eye, felt-based, and heavy (weighted). The men should be constructed so they don't come apart. ... The regulation board used by the U. S. Chess Federation is green and buff—never red and black. However, there are several good inlaid wood boards on the market. ... Avoid cheap equipment. Chess offers a lifetime of enjoyment for just a few dollars well spent at the outset.

Pocket and travel sets

Some small magnetic sets, designed to be compact and/or for travel, have pieces more like those used in shogi and xiangqi  each piece being a similar flat token, with a symbol printed on it to identify the piece type.

Computer images

On computers, chess pieces are often 2D symbols on a 2D board, although some programs have 3D graphics engines with more traditional designs of chess pieces.

Unicode contains symbols for chess pieces in both white and black.

Relative value

The value assigned to a piece attempts to represent the potential strength of the piece in the game. As the game develops, the relative values of the pieces will also change. A bishop positioned to control long, open diagonal spaces is usually more valuable than a knight stuck in a corner. Similar ideas apply to placing rooks on open files and knights on active, central squares. The standard valuation is one point for a pawn, three points for a knight or bishop, five points for a rook, and nine points for a queen (Hooper & Whyld 1992:438–39). These values are reliable in endgames, particularly with a limited number of pieces. But these values can change dramatically depending on the position, the phase of the game (opening, middle game, endings). A bishop pair for example, worth a half a pawn on average (Soltis 2004:183). In specific circumstances, the values may be quite different: a knight can be more valuable than a queen in a particular decisive attack.

Historical illustration

Courier Chess, a predecessor of modern chess, used all six chess piece types plus a courier, man (or rath or sage), and jester.

Piece names

Although the symbols for pieces have international standards, the characters implied by pieces' names vary between languages. For example, in many languages, the piece known in English as the "knight" is named a term that translates to "horse".

figurine ♔ ♚ ♕ ♛ ♖ ♜ ♗ ♝ ♘ ♞ ♙ ♟ ... + #
Afrikaans K Koning
D Dame
T Toring
L Loper
R Ruiter
(P) Pion Skaak Skaak Skaakmat
Albanian M Mbreti
Msh Mbretëresha
Ku Kulla
O Oficeri
Ka Kali
(U) Ushtari
Shahu Shah Shah mat
Arabic م مَلِك
(malik, king)
و وزير
(wazïr, vizier)
ر رخ/طابية
(rukhkh, fortress) / (ṭābiya, castle)
ف فيل
(fīl, elephant)
ح حصان
(ħiṣān, horse)
ب بيدق/عسكري
(baidaq, pawn) / (`askarī, soldier)
كِش مَلِك
(kish malik)
كِش مات
(kish māt)
Azerbaijani Ş Şah V Vəzir T Top F Fil A At P Piyada Şahmat şah
Armenian Ա Արքա
(A Ark῾a, king)
Թ Թագուհի
(T T῾agowhi, queen)
Ն Նավակ
(N Navak, ship)
Փ Փիղ
(P P῾ił, elephant)
Ձ Ձի
(Dz Ji, horse)
Զ Զինվոր
(Z Zinvor, soldier)
Շախմատ (Ճատրակ)
Šaxmat (Čatrak)
Basque E Erregea (king) D Dama (lady) G Gaztelua (castle) A Alfila Z Zalduna (knight) (P) Peoia (pawn) Xake Xake Xake mate
Belarusian (Taraškievica) К кароль
Вз візыр
Лд ладзьдзя
А афіцэр
В вершнік
(Л) латнік
Шахматы Шах Мат
Bengali R রাজা
M মন্ত্রী
N নৌকা
H গজ/হাতি
G ঘোড়া
B বোড়া/সৈন্য/পেয়াদা
দাবা (daba) কিস্তি
Bulgarian Ц цар
Д дама
Т топ
О офицер
К кон
(П) пешка Шахмат/Шах Шах (Шах и) мат
Catalan R rei D dama/reina
T torre
A alfil C cavall
(P) peó Escacs Escac/Xec Escac i mat
Chinese K
(wáng, king)
(hòu, queen)
(, chariot)
(xiàng, elephant)
(, horse)
(bīng, soldier)
(guójì xiàngqí, international chess)
(jiāngjūn, general)
(jiāngsǐ, general dead)
Czech K král
D dáma
V věž
S střelec
J jezdec
(P) pěšec
(foot soldier)
Šachy Šach Mat
Danish K konge
D dronning
T tårn
L løber
S springer
(B) bonde
Skak Skak Skakmat
Dutch K koning
D dame/koningin
T toren/kasteel
L loper/raadsheer
P paard
(pi) pion Schaken Schaak Mat/Schaakmat
English K king Q queen R rook, castle B bishop N knight (P) pawn Chess Check Checkmate/Mate
Esperanto R reĝo
D damo
T turo
K kuriero
Ĉ ĉevalo
(P) peono Ŝako Ŝak Ŝakmato
Estonian[2] K kuningas
L lipp
V vanker
O oda
R ratsu
(riding horse)
(E) ettur
(after malev)
Finnish K kuningas
D daami/kuningatar
T torni
L lähetti
R ratsu
(S) sotilas
Shakki Shakki Matti/Shakkimatti
French R roi
D dame
T tour
F fou
C cavalier
(P) pion Échecs Échec Échec et mat
Georgian მფ მეფე
(mep'e, king)
(lazieri, queen)
(etli, chariot)
(ku, tortoise)
(mkhedari, rider)
(paiki, pawn)
ჭადრაკი (Čadraki) ქიში
German[3] K König
D Dame
(lady, queen)
T Turm
L Läufer
S Springer
(B) Bauer
Schach Schach Matt/Schachmatt
Greek Ρ βασιλιάς
(vasiliás, king)
Β βασίλισσα
(vasílissa, queen)
Π πύργος
(pýrgos, tower)
Α αξιωματικός
(axiomatikós, officer)
Ι ίππος
(íppos, horse)
(Σ) πιόνι
(pióni, pawn)
Hindi R राजा
(rājā, king)
V वज़ीर
(vazīr, vizier)
H हाथी
(hāthī, elephant)
O ऊँट
(ūṁṭ, camel)
G घोड़ा
(ghoṛā, horse)
(P) प्यादा
(pyādā, infantryman)
Hebrew מ מלך
(Melech, king)
מה מלכה
(Malka, queen)
צ צריח
(Tzariach, tower)
ר רץ
(Ratz, runner)
פ פרש
(Parash, rider)
(Regli, foot-soldier)
Hausa S sarki
Q sarauniya
R sansanin
G giwa
J jarumi
(mounted warrior)
(P) soja
ces ceki ceki mat
Hungarian K király
V vezér/királynő
B bástya
F futó
H huszár/ló
(Gy) gyalog/paraszt
Sakk Sakk Matt
Ido R rejo
D damo
T turmo
E episkopo
K kavalo
(P) piono Shakoludo Shako Shakmato
Icelandic K kóngur
D drottning
H hrókur
B biskup
R riddari
(P) peð
Skák Skák Skák og mát
Indonesian R raja
M menteri
B benteng
G gajah
K kuda
(P) pion Catur Sekak/Ster Sekakmat
Irish R
B banríon
C caiseal
E easpag
D ridire
(F) fichillín/ceithearnach
(little chess piece/kern)
Ficheall Sáinn Marbhsháinn
Italian R re
D donna/regina
T torre
A alfiere
C cavallo
(P) pedone
Scacchi Scacco Scacco matto
Japanese K キング
Q クイーン
R ルーク
B ビショップ
N ナイト
(P) ポーン
Javanese R raja
Q ratu/perdhana mentri
(queen/prime minister)
B bèntèng
M mentri
K jaran
(P) pion sekak
Korean K
B 비숍
(bi syob)
N 나이트
(na i teu)
(che seu)
(che keu)
(che keu me i teu)
Latin rex
signifer, cursor
(standard-bearer, messenger)
(ult. from Arabic)[4]
pedes, pedo
Scacci Scaccus Mattus
Latvian K karalis
D dāma
T tornis
L laidnis
Z zirgs
(B) bandinieks
Šahs Šahs Šahs un mats
Lithuanian K karalius (king) V valdovė (queen) B bokštas (tower) R rikis (Lithuanian military commander) Ž žirgas (horse) (P) pėstininkas (pawn) Šachmatai Šach Matas
Lojban N nolraitru (king) Nu nolraitruni'u (queen) B badydi'u (castle) X xanto (elephant) Xi xirma (horse) (S) sonci (soldier) caxmati gunta (attack) lo nolraitru cu morsi (the king is dead)
Luxembourgish K Kinnek
D Damm
T Tuerm
L Leefer
P Päerd
(B) Bauer
Schach Schach Schachmatt
Macedonian K крал
D кралица/дама
T топ
L ловец
S коњ
P пешак/пион
шах шах мат
Malayalam K രാജാവ്
(rajavu, king)
Q മന്ത്രി
(manthri, minister)
R തേര്
(theru, chariot)
B ആന
(anaa, elephant)
N/Kt കുതിര
(kuthira, horse)
(P) കാലാള്‍ / പടയാളി
(kalal)/(padayali, foot soldier)
ചെക്ക് മേറ്റ്
check mate
Marathi R राजा
(rājā, king)
V वजीर
(vajīr, vizier)
H हत्ती
(hātti, elephant)
O उंट
(Unṭ, camel)
G घोडा
(ghoḍā, horse)
(P) प्यादे
(pyāde, foot soldier)
Mongolian Н ноён
Б бэрс
(fers, vizier)
т тэрэг
(tereg, chariot)
Т тэмээ
(temee, camel)
М морь
(mor, rider)
(Х) хүү
(hüü, infantryman)
Шатар шаг, дуг, цод мад
Norwegian Bokmål K konge
D dronning
T tårn
L løper
S springer
(B) bonde
Sjakk Sjakk Sjakkmatt
Norwegian Nynorsk K konge
D dronning
T tårn
L løpar
S springar
(B) bonde
Sjakk Sjakk Sjakkmatt
Persian ش شاه
و وزیر
(vizier, minister)
ق/ر قلعه/رخ
ف فیل
ا اسب
س سرباز
شطرنج کیش
Polish K król
H hetman W wieża
G goniec
S skoczek
(P) pion
szachy szach mat (szach-mat / szach i mat)
Portuguese R rei
D dama/rainha
T torre
B bispo
C cavalo
(P) peão Xadrez Xeque Xeque-mate
Romanian R rege
D damă/regină
T turn
N nebun
(fool, jester)
C cal
(P) pion Şah Şah Mat
Russian Кр король (king)
Kr korol'
Ф ферзь (vizier)
F ferz'
Л ладья (boat)
L ladya
С слон (elephant)
S slon
К конь (horse)
K kon'
(П) пешка
P peshka
Scottish Gaelic R righ (king) B bànrigh (queen) T tùr (tower) E easbaig (bishop) D ridir (knight) (P) pàn (pawn) feòirne casg tul-chasg
Serbo-Croatian К/K краљ / kralj (king) Д/D (краљицa / kraljica / queen) or (дама / dama / lady) Т/T топ / top (tower) Л/L ловац / lovac (hunter) С/S (скaкaч / skakač / jumper) or (коњ / konj / horse) (П) (пешак / pešak / pedestrian) or (пион / pion / pawn) Шах / Šah Шах / Šah Мат / Mat
Northern Sotho К Kgoši Kg Kgošigadi N Ntlosebô/Moshate Mp Mopišopo M Mogale S Seitšhireletšo Tšhêšê Check Checkmate
Sicilian R re
D riggina
T turru
A alferu S scecc[h]u
(P) pidinu
Slovak K kráľ (king) D dáma (lady) V veža (tower) S strelec (shooter) J jazdec (horseman) (P) pešiak (infantryman, pawn) Šach Šach Mat/Šachmat
Slovene K kralj (king) D dama (lady) T trdnjava (castle) L lovec (hunter) S skakač (jumper) (P) kmet (farmer) Šah Šah Mat/Šahmat
Spanish R rey
D dama/reina
T torre
A alfil C caballo
(P) peón
Ajedrez Jaque Jaque mate
Swedish K kung D dam/drottning
T torn
L löpare
S springare/häst
(B) bonde
Schack Schack Schack matt
Tamil K அரசன்
(arasaṉ, king)
Q அரசி
(araci, queen)
R கோட்டை
(kōṭṭai, castle)
B அமைச்சர் / மந்திரி
(amaicchar, minister) / (manthiri, minister)
N/Kt குதிரை
(kutirai, horse)
(P) காலாள் / சிப்பாய்
(kālāḷ, fotsoldier) / (cippāy, sepoy)
இறுதி முற்றுகை
(iṟuti muṟṟukai)
Telugu రాజు
(rāju, king)
(maṃtri, minister)
(ēnugu, elephant)
(gurraṃ, horse)
(baṃţu, soldier)
Thai ขุน
(khun, king)
เม็ด (ตรี/มนตรี)
(met (trī/montrī), counselor)
(reūa, ship)
(khōn, elephant)
(, horse)
(บ) เบี้ย
(bīa, menial)
(ruk, invade)
(jon, checkmate)
Turkish Ş/K şah/kral (shah/king) V vezir (vizier) K kale (castle) F fil (elephant) A at (horse) (P) er/piyon (soldier/pawn) Satranç Şah Mat
Ukrainian король
(korol, king)
Ф ферзь
(ferz, vizier)
T тура
(tura, tower)
C слон
(slon, elephant)
K кінь
(kin, horse)
(П) пішак, пішка
(pishak/pishka, footsoldier)
Urdu بادشاہ
Vietnamese V vua (king) H hậu (queen) X xe (chariot) T tượng (statue) M mã (horse) _ tốt (soldier) Cờ vua Chiếu Chiếu bí/Chiếu hết/Hết cờ
Welsh T teyrn/brenin (lord/king) B brenhines ( queen) C castell (castle) E esgob (bishop) M marchog (rider) (G) gwerinwr (peasant) Gwyddbwyll Siach Siachmat

(Luiro 2009)

See also


  1. Man Ray set
  2. The Estonian chess terms were coined by Ado Grenzstein.
  3. "Handbook". Retrieved 22 March 2019. The pieces bear the names: Koenig, Dame, Turm, Laeufer, Springer, Bauer
  4. H. J. R. Murray, A History of Chess, ch. 11


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